Of Statues, Stones, & Social-Distancing in the Time of a Pandemic

BOSTON — The world is in a state of upheaval and Boston is no exception. Yet, even with empty streets, businesses closing doors, and people sealing themselves inside as part of the quarantining efforts, Boston is finding a way to maintain its spirit and fun in the face of a greater challenge.

Commonwealth Avenue’s colors are often limited to the grey of the cement walkway, the green of the grass, and the brown of the trees, (with an occasional flash of white from a certain legendary squirrel), but in the wake of quarantine there’s been a dash of brighter colors. Kindness rocks have been scattered along several points along Commonwealth avenue. Carrying refreshing bits of lively painted colors with either a painted picture, or an encouraging message.

Kindness Rocks on Commonwealth Mall. Photo by Thomas Brennan

The initial kindness rocks project was started years ago by Megan Murphy, but since then it has taken on a life of its own as a national movement that has made its way to Boston when needed most.

Among the many themes of the Kindness Rocks are words of encouragement for frontline workers. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Quite a few of the painted stones relate to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, providing encouraging messages for frontline workers who are being heroic and providing much needed service in these critical times. What they’re doing is not just heroic, but stands as the epitome of the conviction of humanity and the indomitable nature of the American spirit.

There are quite a few stones commemorating some of Boston’s other moments of fortitude in the face of hardship. A stone bearing Big Papi’s now legendary quote “THIS IS OUR F***ING CITY!” calls back to when Boston came together after two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, April 15, seven years ago, killing three and injuring hundreds. Seeing this message is an empowering reminder of what the city has survived before and is capable of surviving again.

Big Papi’s words still ring true in Boston. Photo by Thomas Brennan

In these times masks are critical, and part of the necessary steps in preventing spread of the virus. Masks are more than an option, they’re outright essential. This new practice (for most of us, that is) of wearing masks can carry some level of insecurities and anxiety but only until you realize how much such measures are needed. Other stones are providing compliments to those taking the safety measures of wearing masks, proving cautious and considerate has become the new fashionable.

A small reminder of the space between us. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Many of the messages on these Kindness Rocks are tied into empowering boosts such as “BE BRAVE” and “ONE STEP AT A TIME.” Though there are more specific references and compliments amongst the bunch. A pair of kindness rocks with a paw print and a heart were put alongside the memorial treat bucket in honor of the late Commonwealth Mall dog, Woodrow. Seeing the memory of a resident dog treated so kindly and paid such kind tribute is more than heartwarming for any passersby, whether they are walking their own dog or not.

Boston has always been a sports centric city as well. Sports events have been the lifeblood of people coming together and enjoying an ongoing event. Even with sports seasons shut down it’s no surprise symbols of Patriots and the Celtics mascots are scattered amongst the kindness rocks, one even calling for the return of a certain high-profile athlete.

The Celtics get some love.
The quarterback formerly known as TB12 gets some love.
And the Patriots’ “Flying Elvis” fits on a Kindness Rock. Photos by Thomas Brennan

Most people have been practicing social distancing for only a few weeks, but these iconic ladies of Boston history, Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley have been seemingly practicing social-distancing since they first returned to Commonwealth avenue 18 years ago. The three women have always been symbols of the great power and potential of the people of Boston. Set several feet apart the statues have been one of the prolific landmarks for the women’s history of Boston.

Sensible even in the figure, the Boston Women’s Memorial is a picture of social distancing.
Ah, Abigail Adams always had a great deal of sense.
Poet Phillis Wheatley showed courage more than 250 years ago and some support for those vulnerable populations.

The Wheatley statue carries that message in another kindness rock with writing “BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE” placed alongside Phyllis’s quill, representing her groundbreaking work as a poet during the Revolution. 

Lucy Stone, suffragist, abolitionist, and orator, was known for her no-nonsense style in the mid-19th century and her statue is showing some practicality today. Photos by Thomas Brennan

Even as statues these women are still making history as the first statues to don face masks, reminding passersby the necessity of minimizing the spread of germ transmission. They apparently started a trend amongst other statues in Boston: Antonio Mendez’s statue, Teammates, depicting Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Don DiMaggio is also ready for action with the famed baseball stars sporting bandanas as well as baseball caps. 

The Teammates outside Fenway Park. Here’s hoping that social distancing gives us even a truncated season at the old ballyard on Van Ness Street. Photo by Thomas Brennan

Boston’s spirit is still going strong even in these tumultuous times. These kindness stones and additions to local statutes might be small features, but they’re powerful symbols and reminders for the people of Boston. These efforts display that ultimately the way forward is founded in optimism, practicality, caution and strong will of a united community.

For more information on the Kindness Rock Project, click here.

3 thoughts on “Of Statues, Stones, & Social-Distancing in the Time of a Pandemic”

  1. I loved the article, Thomas! Your photo caption game is really strong!

    I think kindness rocks are such a cool expression of creativity and social-emotional support. More people should definitely know about them, so thank you for covering this and spreading some positivity. Hoping this comment spreads some positivity your way, too! 🙂

  2. Great article! Walk on Comm Ave every day with my dog and it’s inspiring to see the painted rocks. So glad you captured and shared them

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *